The Chicago Bulls ended the preseason with a 114-105 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, finishing 1-4 in exhibition games.
Nikola Vučević led the Bulls with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Ayo Dosunmu scored 15 points and added two steals in his second start of the preseason.
The Bulls have five days to prepare for their season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Here are six takeaways from Thursday’s game.
1. Patrick Williams and Coby White likely to start in the opener.
Coach Billy Donovan started Williams and White in all five preseason games — and that will most likely continue into the regular season.
Donovan did not commit to a starting lineup for opening day after Thursday’s game. But he said it’s a “fair assessment” that White and Williams will continue in their roles.
2. Zach LaVine and Andre Drummond sit out, Alex Caruso returns.
LaVine (illness) and Drummond (personal reasons) did not attend Thursday’s game. Donovan said LaVine’s illness was not a long-term concern. LaVine stayed home and did not practice Thursday as a precaution to keep the rest of the team healthy.
Caruso returned to the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors. Caruso had tweaked his ankle during practice and was held out as a precaution, but Donovan said the guard likely would have played if it had been a regular-season game.
3. Patrick Williams responds to pressure.
Just two days after he was yanked in the third minute of the Raptors game, Williams responded with a decisive first half — crushing a dunk off a baseline cut on the second play of the game, pinballing through traffic for layups and pulling down rebounds on the defensive end.
“He had a look in his eye before the game,” White said after the loss.
By the end of the first quarter, Williams had surpassed his preseason high rebounding total with four.
It wasn’t a perfect night for Williams. He finished 0-for-7 from 3-point range, a rarity that is unlikely to repeat often for a player who was the Bulls’ most accurate 3-point shooter last season, and 3-for-12 overall. More concerning was his continued pattern of fading after intermission — Williams didn’t record a rebound or point in the second half.
But the improvement satisfied Donovan, who praised the way Williams affected the game regardless of his off-shooting night.
“He shot the ball really poorly tonight. Really poorly,” Donovan said. “And everybody felt his presence in the game.”
4. Anthony Edwards throws down the hammer.
The NBA is bracing for a breakout season from Anthony Edwards, who showcased why opponents are dreading facing him.
The star lit up highlight reels in the second quarter when he launched from just below the free-throw line for a dunk, clicking his heels as he floated over the paint to hammer the ball through the rim with one hand. But his connection with Rudy Gobert — including a deadly lob pass over White later in the quarter — showcased the variety of ways Edwards can pick apart a defense.
Edwards finished with 19 points and five rebounds, sitting for most of the second half.
5. Extra perimeter passes help 3-point volume.
After three games of returning to a low volume of long-range shots, the Bulls upped the ante from behind the 3-point arc.
Players whipped extra passes to the wings in an effort to trade 2-point attempts for 3-pointers, at times passing up open shots under the rim to spray the ball out to the perimeter. The offense logged 30 shots from behind the arc by the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter, when deep rotational players Terry Taylor and Carlik Jones entered the game.
The Bulls were not rewarded for their effort, finishing 11-for-36 from 3-point range — a statistic hurt by Williams’ 0-for-7 outing. But the pace and balance of the offense reflected the ideal for an improved version of offense.
6. Julian Phillips shows out in garbage time.
The final minutes of a preseason game are not a fair estimation of a player’s ability. Nevertheless, Julian Phillips made the most of his six minutes on the court closing out Thursday’s loss.
The rookie bounded in transition for an alley-oop fed by Dalen Terry and soared over opponents to smack away a block. Phillips finished with five points, including a 3-pointer from the corner.